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Lanning v. Hudson County Court of Common Pleas

Decided: July 17, 1941.

DEWITT LANNING, PROSECUTOR,
v.
HUDSON COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS, THOMAS H. BROWN, JUDGE, AND MICHAEL J. GILL, WARDEN OF HUDSON COUNTY PENITENTIARY, RESPONDENTS



On certiorari.

For the prosecutor, Raymond Chasan (Leo Rosenblum, of counsel).

For the respondents, Charles Hershenstein.

Before Justices Bodine, Perskie and Porter.

Perskie

The opinion of the court was delivered by

PERSKIE, J. The single question requiring decision in this cause is whether the First Criminal Court of Jersey City has jurisdiction to try and determine violations under the "Disorderly Persons Law." R.S. 2:201-1, et seq.

The facts which give rise to the stated question are free from dispute. Prosecutor was adjudged a disorderly person (R.S. 2:201-1, et seq.), in the First Criminal Court of Jersey City. He was sentenced and committed to the Hudson County Penitentiary for a period of six months. On prosecutor's application, Judge Brown of the Hudson County Court of Common Pleas allowed a writ of habeas corpus to review the propriety of prosecutor's "imprisonment, detention or restraint." R.S. 2:82-12. Upon the return of the writ, Judge Brown conducted a hearing and "inquired into * * * [prosecutor's] confinement and restraint," and concluded that the First Criminal Court of Jersey City was a court of competent jurisdiction to try and determine, as it did, prosecutor's alleged violation of the "Disorderly Persons Law." Accordingly, Judge Brown dismissed the writ and remanded prosecutor to the Hudson County Penitentiary where he is presently confined. Chief Justice Brogan allowed a writ of certiorari to remove the proceedings into this court to review the propriety of prosecutor's imprisonment, detention or restraint. R.S. 2:82-48 and 2:82-49.

Prosecutor contends here, as he did below, that the First Criminal Court of Jersey City was without jurisdiction to try and determine violations under the "Disorderly Persons Law," supra, and, therefore his conviction by that court and his resultant imprisonment, detention and restraint are illegal. In support of that contention it is argued that by chapter 200, Pamph. L. 1940, p. 856; N.J.S.A. 2:212-1, et seq. (amending sections 2:212-1, 2:212-6, 2:212-19, 2:213-1 and 2:214-5

of the Revised Statutes relative to Criminal Judicial District Courts) and, by chapter 201, Pamph. L. 1940, p. 859; N.J.S.A. 2:212-4.1, et seq. (creating First, Second, Third and Fourth Criminal Judicial District Courts in Hudson County), the courts so created were vested with "exclusive jurisdiction" to try and determine, among others, cases involving violations under the "Disorderly Persons Law."

Respondents on the other hand contend, of course, that Judge Brown correctly dismissed the writ. In support of that contention reliance is chiefly placed upon chapter 250, Pamph. L. 1939, p. 665; N.J.S.A. 2:206-3, providing for hearings under the disorderly persons law before a Police Court, Criminal Court or Recorder's Court in municipalities of which Jersey City is one.

Our consideration and determination of the question first stated as requiring decision are based upon a clearly charted course. It is a course which has for its support principles of long standing. If the alleged illegal confinement of prosecutor is by virtue of a "final judgment" or order (the finality of neither is here in dispute), and if the First Criminal Court of Jersey City is a "competent tribunal" to try and determine violations under the "Disorderly Persons Law" (In re Scridlow, 124 N.J.L. 342, 345; 11 A.2d 837), that is, if it is a tribunal of "unimpaired jurisdiction" (In re Tremper, 129 N.J. Eq. 274, and cases collated at page 276; 19 A.2d 342), then, both under our decisions of which the cited cases are typical and under our statute relative to habeas corpus, R.S. 2:82-13, (b), prosecutor was not, and is not entitled to prosecute this writ.

Solely then for the purpose of determining the "competency," the "unimpaired jurisdiction" of the First Criminal Court of Jersey City to render its challenged judgment or order, by virtue of which prosecutor is allegedly illegally confined, and not the "competency" nor "unimpaired jurisdiction" of any other tribunal or tribunals, let us turn to the ...


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